Tell us about you
As part of most talk submissions, you need to provide a speaker biography. Now we’ve all felt the pain of writing personal statements and making our achievements sound great. It’s a bit cringe worthy, it’s difficult and it’s not a lot of fun. Doing this in one to two paragraphs can be a bit of a nightmare.
To help out, here are some of our top tips when writing a bio:
What to include
There are many ways in which to structure a biography. Personally, I start by imagining I’m on an English 90s game show where I need to answer a guy in a sequined jacket “What’s your name and where do you come from?” Below are the three points I try to include in my own biographies.
Who are you?
Jessica is a software developer, international speaker & avid learner.
What is your name and what do you do? Some people include their place of work in this section.
What are your qualifications?
Topics that they are interested in include community building, monitoring and continuous improvement of systems. They are a Director and Co-Founder of DDD East Midlands, a technology conference which will take place in 2019.
The above is for a general biography, and changes per conference. What do you do for your work or associated extra activities? Don’t write your resume, but it’s good to include why you are talking about a topic. Maybe it’s an interest or maybe you work in a company or discipline that specialises in the topic. This may be a selling point to people coming to see your talk.
Before switching to technology, they spent a previous life as a neuroscientist. They are easily bribed with coffee & love hearing about other people’s experiences.
I like to add a statement that gives other people an excuse to chat. I also get a lot of coffee out the last sentence, and I really do love coffee. Something humanising, that gives others the chance to come up and have something to approach you with.
A nice little extra - if you can put your personal preferred pronoun somewhere in your bio, it will help normalise the practice and help people when they are approaching you in person.
Keep it in context
For every conference and talk I adjust my biography, and there a number of people that do the same.
Much like people edit their CV’s and personal statements for certain job applications, you can edit your biography to suit a conference theme or to demonstrate why you are a good person to listen to about your talk topic.
An example of this is that I don’t include founding and running Women In Tech in any biographies that aren’t for diversity conferences. Likewise, for diversity conferences I minimise the references to my continuous improvement and monitoring work. Neither the attendees or organisers are focused on that work, instead they want to hear about diversity initiatives.
Write in third person
It feels very odd to write in third person, but there are numerous advantages to doing so.
SEO — Don’t use your name an unnatural amount but having text about you, mentioning your name will help SEO for the talks featuring it.
Help the flow of the sites it appears on — It will appear on sites where it looks like people are talking about you and, as such, will read a lot better with this perspective.
Personally, I prefer writing in this way. Talking in third person makes it feel less like I’m going “me, me, me!”.
Short and sweet
As mentioned before, this isn’t your CV. Like all speeches, the best biographies are short and sweet.
Your audience is going to be people scanning through agendas and selecting talks, or conference panel members who might have to be sifting though hundreds of applications in a matter of days. They are people who need succinct information that doesn’t take much time to read.
If you really struggle with this, you can include a link or two, or base it on your twitter biography if you have one. That character limit can be really handy on showing you what information is important.
Get someone else to summarise you
Though I’m writing about creating your own biographies, my first one was actually written by a friend in the industry. They gave me three sentences and then I embellished.
Sometimes it’s easier to get someone else to write about how awesome you are.
Give it some personality Sugar!
There is never any harm in adding a bit of fun. You aren’t just your name or qualifications, you are an interesting and individual person.
I drink more coffee than is healthy. I love learning from others. I hope both of these aspects come across in my biographies, because I want to be approachable and be fed coffee.
It helps me too. I’m not great at approaching people myself. I’m still a little socially awkward, though I am trying to learn. By giving others a way to approach me and feel they can chat… well it saves some effort and means I don’t miss out on meeting great minds.
Don’t rely on just your own thoughts. This is a difficult piece of writing and I haven’t met anyone who enjoys it or thinks they are particularly good at it yet.
Get a friend, a colleague or both to review your biographies. It’ll be valuable.
None of this is an exact science and everything written here is from personal experience or opinion. I hope that it helps in some way, and I am still looking to get better at this practice myself, so if you have any resources or advice, please send it over.
Below are some other blogs with tips and examples.
Here Are Some Links To Help
- Tips for Crafting Your Bio — Women Talk Design
- 11 Tips On How To Write A Personal Biography & Examples — Pete Kistler
- 8 of the Best Professional Bio Examples We’ve Ever Seen — Lindsay Kolowich
- 8 Steps to Writing a Bio Like a Pro — Jörgen Sundberg
How To Talk Really, Really Good
- How To Talk Part 0 - Coming up with a talk
- How To Talk Part 1 - Coming up with a talk
- How To Talk Part 2 - Writing a good talk proposal
- How To Talk Part 3 - Sparkling Biographies
- How To Talk Part 4 - Planning Structure
- How To Talk Part 5 - Considering Flow
- How To Talk Part 6 - Confidence and Practicing
- How To Talk Part 7 - Social Media Wizardry